Ducati and racing are synonymous with one another. The Italian brand holds title to the most World Superbike Championships, so it’s obvious that it knows how to engineer race winning motorcycles. And the 2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale S aims to magnify its race-winning pedigree.
As reported from the 2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale First Ride the new Duc feels more Japanese than ever. The seating position is orthodox and was appreciated by the majority of our testers. It’s about as thin as the KTM and the cockpit isn’t cramped for even taller riders.
“When you first sit on it you notice it no longer feels like a stretched out, top heavy bike but more like a Japanese bike,” comments 5’10”, Neuer. “It’s pretty well proportioned and I had no problems tucking in on it down the straightaways. It’s also the lightest thing in this test, no question.”
“I really like the direction Ducati has taken with the Panigale,” surmises Hutchison. “The ergonomics were a lot more suited to my style than its predecessor. The seat didn’t feel as high and the long reach to the bars seems to have been shortened up.”
As Neuer points out, the Ducati is easily the lightest machine in this group. It weighs 423 pounds with a full 4.5 gallon fuel load. That’s eight pounds less than the second-lightest bike (Kawasaki Ninja) and 52 pounds lighter than the heaviest bike, the MV Agusta.
(Above) The Ducati delivers great feel from the front end. But awkward rear suspension settings made it hard to ride fast. (Center) The Ducati’s engine was rated fourth-best due to its hellacious top-end power. (Bottom) For our track test Ducati mounted up its kit Termignoni race pipe.
Its reduced mass pays dividends during corner entry with it tipping into turns with minimal effort. On the scoresheet it was rated the fourth-best handling machine during Turn-In. The front end also felt pleasing mid-corner with it continuing to offer that signature, telepathic road feel that we’ve grown to adore from Ducati sportbikes.
Through Turn 2 the Duc posted the highest corner speed number of 69.3 mph. It also did well through Turn 8 with a speed of 94.4 mph. Conversely, in the second-gear, right-hander (Turn 14) it was the slowest and over two mph down on most of the competition. When averaged, the Ducati’s result was third from last.
“Initially during corner entry the Ducati felt good and delivered pretty good feel and feedback as you entered the turn,” recalls Siglin. “It steered pretty effortlessly too, but as I leaned it over onto my knee it took some time to settle, so I had a hard time really pushing the front of the bike.”
Looking at the data shows that the Ducati didn’t achieve as much lean angle through The Cyclone as some of the other bikes. The 48.8 degree measurement proved to be third from last, which shows that our rider’s weren’t as comfortable leaning the bike over in corners.
But the biggest problem we encountered with the Ducati was driving off the corner. The reason can be attributed to the rear suspension being set-up so awkwardly that it made it challenging to accelerate off the corner. We know from the First Ride that the shock has the capabilities of working in unison with front, but for our test, it was way off, and that significantly compromised handling.
“It was pretty abrasive and felt undersprung at the rear,” says Montano. “For Ducati, it’s a step in the right direction but definitely needs some fine tuning for it to be competitive with the other bikes.”
The 1199’s awkward handling was also noticeable when we analyzed the flick rate data which proves how difficult it
(From full stiff)
Link: Flat Rate
was to control during the left-right-left transition of Turns 11/12/13. Here it registered the slowest flick rate of 36.9 degrees/second. Given its lightweight and good initial turn-in performance, there’s little doubt that this number could be boosted significantly.
“It just didn’t feel planted,” explains Chamberlain. “Once in the turn it was easily disturbed by bumps or rough pavement. The Ducati just couldn’t give me the confidence I wanted at lean. The bike does steer quickly though… and it seems easier to flick into corners than previous Ducatis.”
There was little to complain about in regards to engine performance as the new Twin definitely has the pace to keep up with the likes of even the mighty BMW—especially with the fitment of the $3499 Termignoni race pipe. Results from the dyno prove that the Ducati unleashes serious horsepower and torque numbers. Although the powerband is more top-end biased than ever, the V-Twin engine still pumps out upwards of 87 lb-ft of torque (second highest, behind the KTM). Horsepower-wise it nearly cracked the 170 mark at 10,400 rpm with another 900 revs of available over-rev, which for a Twin, is a tremendous accomplishment. This gave it title to having the fourth most powerful motor in terms of horsepower. Considering how light it is, it’s no surprise that the Ducati is one fast accelerating motorcycle.
“No doubt about it, the motor is definitely fast,” Siglin reveals. “It has very, very good top-end power. But the powerband hits so hard it upsets the chassis. Still, I’m blown away by how hard the bike accelerates. V-Twins aren’t supposed to pull like that.”
“Revs are the name of the game with the Ducati,” adds Garcia. “It doesn’t have as much bottom-end power as the old machine but keep the thing revved out and it’s incredible how fast it is. The Ducati has one hell of an engine.”
(Above) The new-spec Brembo front brakes offer incredible power but didn’t have as much lever feel as the BMW’s.
(Center) The 2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale feels more Japanese than ever in terms of ergonomic fit. (Below) The new-spec Brembo front brakes offer incredible power but didn’t have as much lever feel as the BMW’s.
No question the Panigale has the engine performance to run up front problem, but as Siglin stated the powerband hits so aggressively that it can overwhelm the chassis making it difficult to open the throttle hard on corner exit. That’s the primary reason why the acceleration force numbers were so far off. Picking up the throttle out of Turn 6 revealed the Ducati could only muster 0.73g (second lowest). It did a little better exiting the final corner (0.74g) but was still behind all but the MV and Yamaha.
Similar to many of the other Euro bikes (with exception of the KTM) the Ducati comes off the showroom floor with an electronic quickshifter which aids in acceleration by reducing the split-second lag time experienced during upshifts. The drivetrain performed as advertised, but the quickshifter wasn’t quite as fast as the aftermarket Dynojet or Bazzaz set-ups employed on the Japanese bikes or even the BMW.
The 1199 employs the latest monobloc-style Brembo calipers and they were well received amongst our testing troupe. Power is strong, as is feel, and the brakes are 100% fade-free. During braking for Turns 10 and 14 the Ducati registered respectable g forces of -1.38 at corner entry, good for fourth-best in that category.
“Ducatis have always had strong brakes and this one is probably the best yet,” states Earnest. “There is plenty of power and since the bike is so light it slows down in a hurry. Initial bite was a little softer than I expected but they were my favorite.”
In spite of the 1199’s severe handling woes it still achieved a respectable lap time at the hands of both the riders. And if we would have nailed the set-up right there’s little doubt that the featherweight Ducati could have surprised some of the other big name brands. While it’ll get another chance next year today the Ducati slots into seventh-place.
- Strong engine performance
- Powerful brakes
- Rear suspension is tricky to set-up
- Could have more bottom-end power
2012 Superbike Smackdown IX Track
2012 MV Agusta F4R Track Comparison
2012 Yamaha YZF-R1 Track Comparison
2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale S Track Comparison
2012 KTM RC8R Track Comparison
2012 Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC Track Comparison
2012 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Track Comparison
2012 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R Track Comparison
2012 BMW S1000RR Track Comparison
2012 Honda CBR1000RR Track Comparison
2012 Superbike Smackdown IX Track Conclusion